How IoT is transforming the mining industry

Recent developments in mining technologies are having a profound effect on the industry, owed in part to the visibility offered by IoT equipment.

By Max Burkhalter
October 31, 2019
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The mining industry is one of the oldest and most dangerous business sectors in the world, owed in part to its slow adoption of new safety technologies and extraction techniques. While today's miners no longer have to crawl for miles to get to their dig site, there are plenty of other hazardous conditions that pose a significant threat to worker health. From poor ventilation to the risk of cave-ins, there are a variety of technical challenges that modern technologies are looking to overcome.

New partnerships between mining companies and tech developers are looking to tackle key issues in worker health, while also improving the efficiency and sustainability of large-scale mining operations. But to understand the exact role internet of things devices, cloud computing and big data will play in the future of mining, it may be useful to look at a few trends within the industry.

3 key trends in mining technologies
The push for more advanced mining technologies is, in part, a response to public perceptions about the industry as a whole, according to Mining Technology. More companies are starting to realize that sustainable practices and improved underground safety equipment will likely be essential to securing the proper licenses and meeting regulatory requirements in the years to come. To that end, Mining Technology highlights three emergent trends that are already reshaping modern mining operations:

  • Sustainability: The environmental impact of large-scale mining projects have been hotly debated over the past decade, forcing companies to prioritize sustainable practices and social responsibility. As a result, mine operators have begun investing in automated systems that can track emissions from their vehicles and equipment.
  • Internet of things: Outfitting mining equipment, workers and dig sites with IoT sensors allows operators to collect a massive amount of information in real time. Using this data, companies can continue to improve their operations with a mind for safety, productivity and environmental impact. Considering most IoT devices, particularly wireless sensors, are becoming more accessible and affordable, it's likely mine operators will ramp up their tech investments over time.
  • Underground technology: One of the biggest complexities of subsurface mining is the need to keep equipment and safety devices charged at all times. This is further compounded by the fact that mining companies are having to dig much deeper to gain access to rich ore deposits. By developing technology that is specifically intended for underground mining, companies may be able to solve key health and efficiency issues.

Ultimately, the future of mining will be defined by technological innovations that are still under development. But which specific use cases demonstrate the value of IoT tech within the mining industry as a whole?

Mine operator working at a dig siteProtecting underground mine operators from serious health issues and the risk of injury starts with powerful monitoring technologies.

New partnerships drive productivity and safety
In late October, Newcrest Mining and Microsoft rolled out a new tech solution at the Cadia Valley gold mine, located in Australia, which seeks to improve monitoring capabilities and better manage crushed ore bins, ZDNet reported. By combining artificial intelligence, IoT equipment and cloud computing, the mining company has been able to reduce overfilling caused by unreliable sensors. The decision to integrate these technologies was meant to eliminate manual processes and the need for workers to physically monitor crushed ore bins. While this development is largely aimed at enhancing productivity, the technology itself can also be used to increase visibility of underground work conditions.

Newcrest Mining has also partnered with Microsoft Azure to create an "open data platform" that is able to aggregate data collected from 100,000 equipment sensors located at mining operations across the world. This massive network of IoT devices will help Newcrest locate inefficiencies and improve working conditions for on-site operators, but deploying such a large system will likely require significant investment in networking infrastructure.

Perle offers powerful connectivity tools that can help increase operational efficiency and support more sustainable mining practices. Our industrial-grade Ethernet switches and console servers can help ensure maximum network uptime in the harshest conditions, allowing companies to focus on innovation and profitability. Read some of our customer stories to find out how we've empowered other companies to take full advantage of IoT technologies.


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